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Vista Schools OK Sex Education Program With Religious Theme

March 19, 1994|MICHAEL GRANBERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VISTA, Calif. — In a decision that may be challenged in court, the school board of this San Diego-area city voted Friday to adopt a controversial sex education program with religious overtones that preaches a strict message of sexual abstinence and avoids the mention of contraception.

Sex Respect, which has been legally challenged in school districts across the country, was chosen by the school board over a state-sanctioned family life program, despite costing $30 more per student.

Critics of Sex Respect said they expect to sue the district when the program is implemented in July.

In an emotional meeting that lasted until early Friday, the Christian conservative majority of the five-member board also voted to replace its staff attorneys with anti-abortion lawyer David Llewellyn of Sacramento, who often represents Christian political organizations.

Barbara Donovan, chairwoman of Community Action for Public Education, said that by hiring Llewellyn, the board is gearing up for her group's expected legal challenge to Sex Respect. "Why hire someone with a specialty unless you know you'll need the specialty?" asked Donovan, who called Sex Respect a fear-based program that "they're using to lord their moral values over the consideration of everyone else in Vista. This was not a popular decision."

Angry parents and teachers often raised their voices in protest against board President Deidre Holliday and members John Tyndall and Joyce Lee, who were the targets of a recent failed recall bid. Recall proponents failed to gather enough signatures but vow another recall attempt in November.

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